Nico Turner playing guitar live on stage.

Cat Power and Nico Turner Live @ The Depot 11.25

Show Reviews

Salt Lake City took the hint that when The Depot’s doors opened at 8 p.m. and music would start at (around) 9, that United Concerts meant it: An 8:45 arrival would leave one in search for a seat in one of the chairs arranged in the venue. It wasn’t utterly packed, though—just full.

Cat Power draws an interestingly eclectic crowd: professors, obligatory hippies, hipsters and maybe a vegan–straight edge kid, too. After the release of her electronica album, Sun, it seemed that there was a yearning for the older, more classic styling of Chan Marshall, and there was no better way to realize that desire than an intimate, seated setting where she would perform solo.

Nico Turner opened the evening relatively on time. She entered the stage donning a black-leather biker jacket and wore her curly mop with lackadaisical nonchalance. At first sight, she was androgynous, her gender perhaps being “rock n’ roll” or “the blues.” A stick of incense burned at the head of her black Telecaster, and she strummed at a riff. She opened her set with a dream-drone number, wherein she strummed effects-laden riffs in triplets to generate a spacy atmosphere. Her second song was a more straightforward Americana number where she picked at her guitar and sang with a timbre not unlike Marshall’s (although it’s difficult to match the ease and fullness that characterizes Cat Power’s sound).

At first, the incense seemed a bit hokey, a bit too nostalgic for something that the United States hasn’t yet recycled. As the smoke streamed from the crown of her axe, though, the romance of it all matched the essence of her dreary folk rock songs, and she made it work. A couple songs in, and Turner earned the approval of the crowd—most notably the belly dancers who, though unseen, made their presences known with “la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la” cheers.

Turner utilized a flange-like effect in a couple songs with vocal echoes that allowed her music to expand and undulate like waves breaching sand. Turner’s voice also resembles that of True Widow’s Nicole Estill in that there was a dulcet facet that splashed in the soft soundscape. Her songs retained a charming simplicity, demonstrated by her minimal power chord changes, yet, somehow, remained interesting throughout her set. It was endearing to witness Turner’s slightly burnout demeanor as she ended songs awkwardly and sometimes abruptly. She’s a talented artist, and definitely earned her keep on this bill. She only played for what seemed like 25 minutes—it would have been nice to hear and see a little more.

Incense burned on Cat Power’s piano, too, before she came onstage—something was up. The house speakers played music that could originate in India and Marshall arrived onstage in a denim jacket. Her hair is dyed blonde right now.

She was welcomed with applause and warmed up with some picking on her guitar. She opened with “Hate.” At first glance, her guitar looked like a gold Tele, but its color awash in the stage lighting proved to be iridescent and unidentifiable. Marshall sang effortlessly and with her trademark sultriness. She announced that this performance was dedicated to Ria Pell, and sidled into her Rolling Stones cover of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” to abounding cheers. There was something a bit off as she related that, of this tour, the drive to SLC was the longest, but yet, they got here in the least amount of time compared to other destinations. Maybe she cornered a bowl with Turner before her set.

Cat Power started to hit her (first) stride with “Great Expectations,” as its dark tone subdued the audience who was still giddy and shouting unnecessary “woo!”s (something that, unfortunately, didn’t cease). Marshall switched to the piano to the “la-la-la”s of the belly dancers and played “Colors And The Kids.” It was nice to hear her pieces on the piano—“The Greatest” and a new piece written in Malibu—but the allure didn’t feel as prevalent as her songs on the guitar.

The front row perhaps felt the same way, as they gabbed enough to get Marshall to mumble something to the effect of asking how much they paid to see this show, sheepishly. She eventually stopped a song due to talking in the front row, stutteringly and sarcastically asking for earplugs because she felt distracted. She went on a tirade about the lights being too bright and asked for some house lights to shine upon the audience so she could see for whom she performed.

She switched back to guitar, and said, “Is this a college town? … Why is everyone a fuckin’ smartass?” As much as it may seem like it was uncalled for, her commentary was actually funny and a good retort to the obsequious “WE LOVE YOU!” exclamations from the “Coexist” members of the crowd. They, however, would not shut the fuck up. Marshall also, ballsily, took a couple drags from a cigarette onstage, maybe to calm her nerves.

“I must be one of the devil’s daughters,” crooned Marshall as she regained composure in her “Troubled Waters” cover. She mentioned that she was “distracted by a loss.” Ria Pell? (Further Instagram research confirmed this.) Marshall climaxed her set with more songs from You Are Free, including “Good Woman,” “Babydoll” and “Werewolf,” and she played “The Moon.” This chunk of her performance transfixed the crowd and distilled the ethos/pathos in the classic gait of Cat Power.

Marshall tuned her guitar after a flubbed attempt at “House of the Rising Sun” and tried again, and haphazardly took a shot at a few other songs. She was off last night, but it was somehow relatable (especially when attendees would not get the hint that they should stop talking). She tossed out flowers that had rested on her piano to people in the front row, and apologized for her vindictive comments from earlier.

Marshall’s onstage persona was something else last night. It was weird. It was uncomfortable. It was difficult to discern whether she was playing up her sarcasm or if she was deeply irked. Either way, her heavy-handed remarks were good for SLC—in a town where everybody is superlatively nice all the time, it’s refreshing to have a respected artist come to town and berate people. A few of her guitar-playing mishaps also humanized her to an extent. After all, she is a solo artist onstage, making work. Seriously, though: When a musician is on the stage—especially solo—please shut the fuck up and listen.